Hoffman Estates trustee hopefuls define their strengths

Evenly divided among two slates, the six candidates for three Hoffman Estates village trustee seats stated the reasons they believe voters should cast their April 6 ballots for them as individuals during a joint interview Monday with the Daily Herald.

Incumbents Karen Arnet, Michael Gaeta and Karen Mills are aligned with Mayor Bill McLeod in their reelection campaigns, while challengers James Murre, Gaurav Patel and Renee Robinson are part of retired police lieutenant and mayoral candidate Mark Mueller's "Hoffman Estates Forward" slate.

But despite these campaign allegiances, all said they were willing to serve with members of the opposite slate if that's what voters chose.

Patel, a dentist who already serves on the village's planning & zoning and fire & police commissions, said he would like to help Hoffman Estates define itself as a distinct community out of the shadow of neighboring Schaumburg.

"I want to see all the residents say they're proud residents of Hoffman Estates," Patel said. "I want them to say they live in Hoffman Estates and be recognized, not to say, 'I live in Hoffman Estates next to Schaumburg.' So how do we achieve that? I think by bringing in businesses and making the community grow. And that is my main reason (for running)."

Gaeta, who said the current board has helped help Hoffman Estates weather the storm of the pandemic better than many other towns in the area, added that he has insight into the concerns of seniors in the village because he lives in a 55-and-older community.

"And I am a small-business owner also," Gaeta said. "And yes, I understand where they're coming from. And the thing is, we're continuously growing, from bringing in new businesses and - which is very important to me - supporting the businesses that we do have. And to do whatever we can to help them."

Mills, who has been a trustee since her appointment to the board in 1992, said experience has never been more important than now.

"I feel that I've proven over the years that I do care about this village and the residents," Mills said. "I feel that now is not the time to go with unexperienced people in (these) positions. The economy and everything else as we go forward coming out of this pandemic is too delicate and fragile not to have the experience that I can bring back to the board for four more years along with Karen Arnet and Mike Gaeta."

Arnet, who is seeking her second term, said her dedication to the village goes back to having been raised and attended school in it before living there throughout her adult life.

"It's a great community," she said. "It's a great village. We love what we do. We love our village and we want to keep it going stronger."

Murre, like Mueller, is retired from the village's police department and has since become a real estate broker.

"I'm also passionate about the community," he said. "I've lived in the community many years, raised my family here. And I get it, people are resistant to change. ... Change, though, is something that I think is necessary, especially now."

He added that he sees other communities demonstrating more innovation during the pandemic - such as Addison and Bensenville collaborating on vaccinations - than Hoffman Estates.

Robinson, a teacher for 30 years and a resident for nearly that long, said she wants Hoffman Estates' identity to be stronger and more positive.

"I think I want to turn our village of no to a village of yes," she said. "I want to support big small businesses, seniors in our community, the youth, the veterans, people with disabilities and build our community to be one community. That's really important to me, especially as I've been around listening to people, that we are not seen as a community."

Robinson echoed Murre's argument that now is a good time for change.

"I think we can bring new ideas and energy to the board," she said. "Change can be scary, but change can also be good. So I just want us to move Hoffman forward and move it to greatness."

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